I use Lightroom primarily for organization and secondly for quick to medium difficulty adjustments. My advanced work and preparation for print are still done in PS. Many times LR is all I need to select photos, prep them for use on the web, and export them.
With all of these features and with more integration tools, added image adjustment capabilities, and printing options going into the program, it is easy to forget that LR is a database. Like all databases, it is only as good as the data is complete and detailed, but if you manage the detail you can create a powerful learning and efficiency tool.
I am a wildlife photographer and a habitual photographer who photographs in the same location over and over and with the same subjects. The conditions and sometimes fast action do not leave much time to fuss with settings and adjust. I do get some chances to experiment, but I want to be in the ball park when I enter the water or get in the game vehicle. This is where a little extra time in LR provides me with a valuable learning tool. I consult it before each trip and keep charts for each camera and lens as a quick cheat sheet based on real data.
Settings, time of image, flash use, and equipment are all recorded in the metadata automatically (make sure you adjust the time on your camera for time zones and daylight savings!) but I also enforce the discipline of recording the location in detail (for example: north corner or in canal), the sky and lighting conditions, and for underwater – the visibility. Next I will try to add tides to that. I also rate each photo before I do much adjusting to it and I keep all but the really embarrassing shots – at least until my disk gets full.
I have learned some surprising things such as all of my best manatee photographs happened between 9am and 9:30am. There was a significant drop off in number of quality shots before and after this time and the golden time ranges later as it gets later in the season. This makes sense due to the lengthening of days and the sunrise getting later. Knowing this, I no longer have to get up before dawn!
Using the Library Filter panel in LR I can use it like a query tool to see a count of images with the keywords I have chosen and combinations of the ISO, flash, rating, etc that I choose. The tool is not a perfectly flexible query tool but you can be clever with your keywords and how you record data to get it to track and measure what you are interested in. Maybe improvements to this will make it into a future release.
When I have my manatee workshop next week I will be able to look at the time, weather, and water conditions and recommend settings. I prepared the following chart using meta data in LR.
|7am to 9 am|
|Cloudy and/or low visibility||ISO 640||F2.8||1/80 – 1/100|
|Bright and clear visibility||ISO 320||F3.2 – f5.0||1/60 – 1/80|
|9 am – 10 am|
|Cloudy and/or low visibility||ISO 640||F6.3||1/100|
|Bright and clear visibility||ISO 400||F4.0 – 6.3||1/80 – 1/125|
|10 am – 11:30||Cloudy and/or low visibility||ISO 500 – 320||F6.3 – 8.0||1/80|
|Bright and clear visibility||ISO 160ISO 250||F7.1 – f8.0F6.3||1/601/250|
For use on my safaris, I am using the data to come up with animal specific settings given lighting conditions. Of course you can use the histogram on the camera screen and your experience to do the same thing, but many times I cant take the time to analyze and adjust in the field (while cageless with sharks or at a lion hunt) Thus is the nature of wildlife and sports photography.
If you needed another reason to keep you photos organized and properly loaded, taking this “big picture” look at a collection of images of your favorite subject is very rewarding.